Their last two studio albums have sold five million copies worldwide. They draw comparisons to the band Radiohead, are included on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and the soundtracks to Twilight and New Moon from the red-hot vampire saga. They’ve sold out both the L.A. Forum and Madison Square Garden and grace the current cover of Spin magazine. So why is it then that whenever you mention Muse here in the States, you’re more often than not met with a blank look. Who?
Muse are known for their extravagant live shows; their fusion of progressive and alternative rock, classical music and electronica genres; not to mention the sometimes kooky sci-fi undertones to their albums. The band are threatening to break on Yankee shores with all the pomp and progginess of their 70s compatriots Queen when their new album, The Resistance
, drops in September.
From their inception Muse have maintained the focus and long-term vision shared by all great bands and are undaunted by the fame that has, up to this point, eluded them in America. They’re methodical in growing their career, allowing themselves time to evolve with every album. Muse know it’s only a matter of time before America falls.
At the tender age of 13, bored with life in the rather sedate town of Teignmouth, Devon, vocalist/guitarist/pianist Matt Bellamy weaseled his way into drummer Dominic Howard’s band. According to Bellamy, there wasn’t much else to do in Devon but make music.
The two boys recruited Chris Wolstenhome, who was persuaded by his bandmates to give up the drums for bass guitar, and the group called themselves Gothic Plague. And then, Fixed Penalty. And then, as a glam/goth outfit competing in a local battle of the bands, they took the name Rocket Baby Dolls. A surprise win inspired them to forego higher education and steady employment for a musician’s life. In 1997, the trio changed their name to Muse.
After a few years spent jamming in friends’ basements, building a fan base as they went along, Muse played their first gigs in London and Manchester and managed to generate enough industry buzz to be signed to a two-album deal with Madonna’s Maverick Records.
In 1999, Muse released their glammy debut album, Showbiz
. The album was a minor commercial success, reaching number twenty-nine on the UK Albums Chart. Muse played major festivals throughout Europe and Australia in support of the album, and landed an opening slot for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters here in the US. Despite the musical muscle behind it, the album tanked in America.
The band's 2001 follow-up, Origin of Symmetry
, with its more aggressive sound that was heavier on guitar and introduced keyboards and pianos to the mix, was a critical and commercial hit in the UK. In the States, however, Maverick didn’t issue the record due to Bellamy’s refusal to ease off his soaring, operatic falsetto, thought to be less radio-friendly, and record in a different vocal register. Origin wouldn’t be released stateside until 2005 when Warner Bros. Records signed the band.
Muse finally made some headway in the States when they performed a set at 2004s Coachella Festival in support of their 2003 release, Absolution
. The album won Muse a host of awards in Europe and was the band’s first album to chart in the US.
And then in 2006 came Black Holes and Revelations
, Muse’s most idiosyncratic, audacious work yet, which included a robotic dance-club song, a pop ballad, and the “Bohemian Rhapsody”-like “Knights of Cydonia”, a song that made its way into living rooms around the globe when it landed on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
. The album topped the UK and European charts within its first week and at last broke into America’s Top Ten.
Recently, some 85,000 tickets for Muse’s November tour of the UK were snatched up in less than 30 minutes. The band continues to enjoy huge success in their native England and other parts of the world, and with the upcoming release of The Resistance
in September, an album said to be the band’s most ambitious project to date with “massive riffs” and “all sorts of wonder”, those in the know predict the record will score the Brit band its long overdue coup in the United States.
Be sure to catch Muse when they open for U2 beginning in September. Concert information can be had on the band’s website.